Liberal Arts Blog — Jackson, Mississippi — the burning of 1863, the assassination of 1963, Eudora Welty
Liberal Arts Blog — Sunday is the Joy of Humor, Food, Travel, Practical Life Tips, and Miscellaneous Day
Today’s Topic — Jackson, Mississippi — the burning of 1863, the assassination of 1963, Eudora Welty
Founded in 1821, named after the hero of the Battle of New Orleans who would alter become President, burned to the ground by General William Tecumseh Sherman in 1863, Jackson has a population today of only 164,200, a decline from 10 years ago. But still the most populous in the state, the poorest in the nation. Jackson is located on the Pearl River in central Mississippi. During the early 1960s, the city was the center of civil rights protest. It was the terminus of the famous Freedom Riders of 1961, the site of the assassination of Medgar Evers in 1963 and the bombing of the synagogue and home of Rabbi Nussbaum (a civil rights supporter) in 1967. The center of an oil and natural gas boom in the 1930s, the city’s biggest employers today are the University of Mississippi Medical Center and Baptist Medical Clinic. The city is 79% black and 18% white (down from 60% in 1970), and 1.6% hispanic. Jackson was home to one of America’s greatest writers (Eudora Welty) and another lived there for an extensive period (Richard Wright). And, just to clarify, the song “Jackson” (covered by Johnny Cash and June Carter, among others) is about Jackson, Tennessee.
This is the second in a series on state capitals that I have never visited. The idea is to get out of the Boston bubble. Never having driven cross-country, I thought it was time to do so virtually. Experts — please chime in. Correct, elaborate, elucidate.
THE BURNING OF JACKSON ON MAY 12, 1863 — part of the Vicksburg Campaign
1. Vicksburg, 46 miles from Jackson, was the last Confederate stronghold on the Mississippi River.
2. The Union victory is often considered a major turning point in the war as it split the Confederacy in two — separating Texas, Arkansas, and parts of Louisiana from the eastern half.
3. Jackson’s population at the time was roughly 3500.
THE ASSASSINATION OF MEDGAR EVERS — June 12, 1963
1. Evers, a World War Two veteran, was a civil rights activist and the field secretary of the NAACP.
2. His assassin was a white supremacist named Byron De La Beckwith.
3. His wife, Myrlie Evers, would become the national chair of the NAACP. His brother would be the first black elected mayor of a Mississippi town (Fayette) since Reconstruction.
NB: The assassination has been commemorated by musicians (Bob Dylan, Nina Simone, Phil Ochs), writers (Eudora Welty), and filmmakers (Rob Reiner). A statue was erected by the city in his honor in 1992 and in 2004 The Jackson airport was re-named the “Jackson-Medgar Wiley Evers International Airport.”
EUDORA WELTY (1909–2001) — up there with Flannery O’ Connor and Carson McCullers
1. Her mother was a teacher who believed that “every room in our house at any time of day was there to read in or be read to.”
2. Her epitaph is a quote from her Pulitzer Prize-winning novel, The Optimists’ Daughter: “For her life, any life, she had to believe, was nothing but the continuity of its love.”
3. Most famous for her frequently anthologized short stories. Do you have a favorite?
NB: After Evers’ assassination, she wrote a short story about it for the New Yorker entitled “Where is the voice coming from?” She later said: “Whoever the murderer is, I know him: not his identity, but his coming about, in this time and place. That is, I ought to have learned by now, from here, what such a man, intent on such a deed, had going on in his mind. I wrote his story — my fiction — in the first person: about that character’s point of view.”
So have you been to Jackson? Highlights of the trip? Anything miscellaneous to share from anywhere? Jokes? Practical life tips? Favorite foods? Random facts?
This is your chance to make someone else’s day. Or to cement in your mind a memory that might otherwise disappear. Or to think more deeply about something dear to your heart. Continuity is key to depth of thought.